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Spa Thursday Notebook

John Dagys’ Thursday FIA WEC notebook from Spa-Francorchamps…

Photo: MPS Agency

***The class of the 2018-19 FIA World Endurance Championship season assembled for the annual start-of-season group shot on Thursday morning. While the photo has traditionally been taken on the Silverstone Wing, Spa’s Eau Rouge was the backdrop this year, with the Belgian circuit hosting the season-opener for the first time.

***Questions have continued to mount on whether CEFC TRSM Racing will take part in Saturday’s race after both Ginetta G60-LT-P1 Mecachromes completed only single installation laps in both Free Practice sessions on Thursday. It has since been revealed that Leo Roussel, who was listed to drive the No. 5 car, is no longer on the entry list. 

***An unprecedented 26 drivers are set to make their WEC debuts this weekend. It includes the established likes of Nicky Catsburg, Martin Tomczyk as well as the much-publicized Fernando Alonso.

***Andre Lotterer, Christian Ried and Darren Turner, meanwhile, will continue their perfect attendance record, in making their 51st series starts in the 51st race in series history.

***While making his first start in an LMP1 non-hybrid with Rebellion Racing, ex-Audi and Porsche factory star Lotterer has been united with his Formula E race engineer, Fabrice Roussell, this weekend, which the German believes will help with his acclimation. “We understand each other quite well,” Lotterer said.

***Rebellion has swapped its chassis since the Prologue, with the No. 1 Rebellion R13 Gibson (chassis No. 1) now the team’s No. 3 entry. Chassis No. 2, which completed a rollout last week at Paul Ricard, is the new No. 1 car. Team manager Bart Hayden said the decision to swap was an “engineering-based choice.”

***Hayden told Sportscar365 that the team’s second chassis, originally scheduled to debut at its Magny-Cours test last week, was delayed in order to incorporate several build-related enhancements to the car the team had pinpointed from its initial tests.

***The pair of Rebellions are running a version of its Le Mans-spec low-downforce aero package this weekend, despite the non-hybrids inherently carrying significantly more downforce than the hybrids. “The downforce of the car is huge,” Hayden said. “I think that’s been one of the challenges of the new P1 regulations.”

***Hayden said they have “options” for different aero packages post-Le Mans although hasn’t defined the exact number of kits they plan to utilize. While locked into homologated kits through Le Mans, LMP1 non-hybrid teams have no restrictions in terms of aero development following the race.

***Loic Duval, who is pulling double duty between Spa and the DTM season-opener in Hockenheim this weekend, left the Belgian circuit following Free Practice 1 and will return for Saturday’s race, before heading back to Germany on Sunday.

***BMW Motorsport director Jens Marquardt, as well as several PR staff for the German manufacturer, are also making multiple trips back and forth. BMW has an especially busy weekend, with the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship in action at Mid-Ohio.

***Aston Martin has racked up more than 20,000 miles in its ten-month development program of the new Vantage GTE at 14 different circuits around the world including far-flung venues such as Yas Marina Circuit and Sebring.  “We have delivered our most extensive testing program with the Vantage GTE, optimizing every aspect of the car and brought it to a point where we are satisfied that it is competitive and reliable,” said AMR technical director Dan Sayers.

***With SMP Racing’s crew uniforms yet to arrive, in an apparent manufacturing snafu, mechanics are again in full ART Grand Prix team kit this weekend. The French squad has taken over from AF Corse as the race operations team behind the Russian-backed outfit.

***Egidio Perfetti, who makes his WEC debut in the No. 56 Team Project 1 Porsche, is one of the most multi-national drivers on the grid, with the Porsche Carrera Cup racer, of Italian blood, having been born in Switzerland by his Norwegian mother, and has split his time between Holland and Asia for the last decade.

***Both Sebring International Raceway President Wayne Estes and Rick Humphrey, Vice President of IMSA Properties, are on-site this weekend to get a glimpse of the WEC prior to its visit to the famed Florida airfield circuit in March, now as a 1,000-mile/8-hour race.

***Eurosport will open the WEC season with live coverage on Saturday, beginning at 5:15 p.m. UK time with commentary from Mark Cole and newly crowned Asian Le Mans Series champion Harrison Newey.

***Velocity, which will utilize the Eurosport commentary feed this year, will air the race in two segments, from 7-8:30 a.m. and 12:30-2 p.m. ET, with the full race, and tomorrow’s qualifying, streamed exclusively on the Motor Trend App.

Laurent Mercier contributed to this report

John Dagys is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Sportscar365. Dagys spent eight years as a motorsports correspondent for and SPEED Channel and has contributed to numerous other motorsports publications worldwide. Contact John

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